Are you like me in that when dining out, and presented with the wine list, a whole manner of thoughts cross your mind; in a similar fashion to those days you turned over your exam paper at school, and that cold sweat across your brow appears as you realize that 5 minutes scan reading on the school bus probably wasn’t enough after all? If not, then by all means stop reading. For those of you left, I empathise in your struggle. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore wine and whilst I can regale you in knowledge and stories of Central Otago Pinot Noir (credited to my ski bum days in New Zealand, moonlighting in a fine dining restaurant) with an extremely smug look on my face, this knowledge generally means very little when presented with the average wine list, as once again, it appears, Central Otago Pinot is off the menu tonight!
I had the fortune (or misfortune, depending how you perceive this) of over-hearing one such wine debacle. As the waiter approached his table, the nervous patron openly confessed his lack of knowledge of wine and needed a recommendation, to which the waiter graciously said “I will send over the Sommelier” – to which the unfortunate soul replied, “that sounds lovely, I’ll have that”. The patron was most confused when a smartly dressed man approached his table with a wine list. Whilst I hid my uncontainable chuckles beneath a napkin, I did feel for the poor chap. At the end of day, who gets trained in wine? This certainly was not in my school syllabus, but I can’t help but wonder what the hell a gwerthizemer is would have been more beneficial than bloody algebra (apologies Maths enthusiasts).
An interesting fact for example, is that in the UK when we ask for the House Wine, we are generally looking for the cheapest grape juice; and that screw top will do grand. This is a classic example of British butcherism, as the term La Maision du Vin, actually means, the recommended wine of the house/restaurant. So when ordering the House Wine in France, this will often not mean the cheapest, but effectively one that the Chef/Sommelier has personally recommended. This still falls into the reasonably priced bracket, so fear not that a 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild might be aptly placed on your table, with a hefty £100K bill. However, as this is not the case in the UK, we are set the task of perusing the wine menu. For those of you that feel guilty to be guided by price, please do not! At the end of day, one should only pay for what they feel comfortable in paying for. After all, shop long enough, and I am sure you could find socks that cost £100, but the 6 pairs for a £5 in Asda will do me nicely, thank you very much. Though the same cannot be said for my interest in wine, I am to a degree guided by price. Not the cheapest, not the most expensive – somewhere in the middle perhaps.
The restaurant scene has come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade and generally speaking, waiting staff now come with a plethora of knowledge. Don’t feel the need to aimlessly guess at the wine list in the need to impress the table; ask and you shall receive. If in doubt, go for a wine that is served by the glass and get a taster! Wine is a life passion, and one that will continue to excite me – why, only the other day I discovered that Rosé is in fact not a combination of red and white wine!!! Fancy that!